President Donald Trump’s executive order banning all immigrants and visa holders from seven Muslim nations is already being used by the militant group ISIS as a recruitment tool and has increased the possibility of an attack on America, former CIA Director and US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta just told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
Panetta, who served under President Barack Obama, also said there is “no question that the ban is based on religion.”
“We’ve fed ISIS a major argument that I think will help them in recruiting and that increases the chances of a potential attack in this country,” he warned. “It doesn’t lessen that possibility. It increases that possibility.”
But the former CIA Chief is not the only one sounding the alarm. According to several former jihadists and experts, the executive order reinforces ISIS’ narrative.
“It plays into their propaganda, to make it clear for anyone who could be in doubt, that it’s a war on Islam and all Muslims,” former foreign fighter Abu Abdullah told CNN over a messaging service.
Another former jihadi said the wedge being driven between Muslims living in the West and their governments is exactly what ISIS wants.
“Trump is helping ISIS a lot, he’s basically being a tool for them in a way,” Abu Obaida, a British former Jabhat al-Nusra fighter in Syria, told CNN via direct message.
“Sympathizers of Islamist militant groups are already hailing Trump’s ban online,” Obaida said. “On social media right now there’s a lot of people quoting Anwar al-Awlaki —the late spokesperson for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula— and his last speech when he said that America will turn on the Muslims,” he added.
Panetta stressed the danger posed by the Trump administration by signaling the West is at war with “Islam” rather than “extremism.”
“Any time you ban people from coming into this country from key Muslim nations, there’s no question in my mind that that ban is based on religion, and who they are,” he said.
Regarding Trump’s dismissal of Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, Panetta said that if the attorney general or deputy attorney general “are given a directive, which they feel violates the Constitution, then I think it is their duty … not to enforce that order.”
On the elevation of political adviser Steve Bannon to the National Security Council, Panetta said giving political advice in that forum is “the worst thing you could do.” Having a political adviser “gain that status on the National Security Council,” he said, “is wrong.”